Thursday, September 13, 2007

Only one left?!?!?!!

My, my, how time flies. Tuesday we had our 5th class and it went much better than last weeks. We were talking about community, symbols and the arts in worship. So for our worship time at the beginning of class I had a number of symbols set up around the room: bread and wine; water in a clear bowl; a dish of sand with a fish drawn in it; a candle; a cross (one that has special meaning to our congregation); a picture of a crusty old shepherd counting his sheep; a picture of a dove diving downward; some braided ropes from one of our earlier classes; and a mirror. We began by singing 2 verses of All Things Bright and Beautiful. Then, I read from Genesis 1:26-27 from The Message translation: God spoke: 'Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea and the birds of the air, the cattle and yes the Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of the earth.' God created human beings, he created them godlike, reflecting God's nature. He created them male and female." I said a very short sentence or two expounding on this passage and how God relates to us - makes himself known to us - in the created order and especially through each other. And so we use symbols in worship to help us speak about God and about what God has done. None of the symbols we use is God, and none of them could possibly ever come close to showing all of who God is. Rather, they are little glimpses and signposts that point us to God. Then I invited the class to visit the various symbols around the room. They were invited to interact with the symbols and listen for God speaking to them and to look to where the symbols pointed - to God. It was fascinating to watch them. At first, they were hesitant, and just looked. But then, one person picked up the cross and talked with the person next to him about where that particular cross had come from. Then, suddenly people felt free to really interact with the symbols. Some played in the water, one person ran his hands through the sand - he saw a different symbol than I had planned. He saw the grains of sand, as numerous as the people of the nations of Abraham and reveled in how God knew each grain intimately. One person saw the ropes and remembered the lesson. He counted them and realized that I had put one there for each person in the room, so he took his. Later, he admitted to taking it, and I let everyone else know that there was one for them as well. We closed with two verses of For the Beauty of the Earth, and a responsive benediction that I found in The Worship Sourcebook.

For the main portion of the class, we talked about community and how community is a basic fact of being a human and also being a child of God. Trip Huggins, over at Conjectural Navel Gazing: Jesus in Lint Form wrote a post yesterday about community that was very similar to what I talked about in class about community. Here's a link to the actual post: Saving Communities.

I then referred back to our worship time and how God created us in his image. We are a symbol of God and all of us as a community make up the Church universal that is a symbol of the Body of Christ here on earth. We talked more about symbols and their importance in worship - and their danger. We talked about symbols here at WPC and how sometimes the symbols we have around our church give unintended messages. We talked about the fine line between a powerful symbol that is rooted and connected to our history, important to our lives as a community that points to God, and a symbol that has become more important than that to which it is pointing - a symbol that has become a sacred cow.

This conversation then led from symbols to the role of arts in worship. We discussed various forms of art (visual, musical, drama, dance, language, etc.) and when we've experienced it in our worship services. Music is the very dominant art at WPC - many people have joined the church because of our music program. That's not necessarily a good thing. We hope that if they come because of the music, they'll stay because of God. As a music staff, we work hard to make sure our music is always in the context of ministry and not performance. I digress... We watched a YouTube video that I found - an example of drama in worship and how powerfully drama can tell the story. I don't see is doing this kind of drama in our church - at least not yet. We're a pretty formal, traditional church. But, I wanted them to see the possibilities out there. Here's the video:

Some of the reactions were positive to this, some were negative. Some were really put off by the violence in the skit and couldn't get past that. This led to a frank conversation about how our worship really needs to be honest about life. God ultimately prevails and there is hope, but here in this already-but-not-yet time somethings in this life really suck. And our worship will never be relevant, no matter what kind of music we use, if we're not honest about that. The psalms are bluntly honest about the suckiness of life, so why do we think we can't be.

Overall, it was a really good class. For their homework, I gave them a short article out of Call to Worship: Liturgy, Music, Preaching and the Arts Vol. 39.4 titled "Confessions of a Liturgical Artist." I also gave asked them to read an article by Sally Morgenthaler at the website Allelon: A Movement of Missional Leaders. You should go and read that article. Next Tuesday is our last one and then we get down to the real business of planning worship together. I feel that we have only barely scratched the surface. There's so much more to know and find out about worship. One of the hardest things about planning these classes has been trying to figure out what NOT to cover. I feel almost like we've got just enough information now to be really dangerous.

On Tuesday, we'll actually being with class - wrapping up, talking specifically about worship planning and getting a preview on the worship services that we will be planning etc. Then at 7:15 we will journey to the Chapel for a longer worship service which will include Communion. Then, we will get together Friday evening and Saturday morning to start planning.

It's been a wild ride and it ain't even half way over yet...


Blogger Sally said...

Interesting video- I think we'd find that too much of a challenge at the present time, but it certainly shows what can be done

6:10 AM  

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